Helping another person with personal care needs, such as bathing, dressing and assistance with using the bathroom, can be uncomfortable for all involved. It’s difficult to put modesty aside and allow someone to assist you when you’re at your most vulnerable. And there are times when seniors, most notably those with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, become terribly anxious while receiving this needed help, to the point that a battle can erupt.
The exact cause for these outbursts varies from person to person, but some of the potential reasons can include:
- Loss of control. Independence and autonomy can feel as though they’re slipping away in a variety of areas for older adults, and maintaining control over the most basic functions becomes even more important.
- What can help: Let the senior maintain as much control as possible, and come up with compromises instead of pushing the senior too far. If she insists on wearing an unmatching outfit, for instance, allow her that freedom.
- Adherence to tradition. When today’s seniors were children, standards of hygiene were far different than now, oftentimes with weekly rather than daily baths. A senior whose memory is unclear may revert back to those days and balk at the idea of a daily bath or shower.
- What can help: Using positive, motivating language can sometimes encourage the senior to see things from a different perspective. For example, use bath time as a springboard to a fun activity, such as a lunch date for which she certainly will want to look and feel her best.
- Fear of the experience. As we age, once simple tasks such as bathing and dressing can become fraught with fears, and often rightfully so, as the fear of falling in the tub or while getting onto or off of the toilet are risks to consider. Some seniors with dementia also become fearful of the sound of running water, or may become distressed by the feel of water that’s too warm or too cool.
- What can help: In-home safety modifications, such as grab bars beside the tub and toilet and elevated toilet seats, will reduce the risk of falling. Using a soft, soothing voice and explaining each step of the process in advance can also help.
The tips below can also help minimize fear and anxiety:
- Always allow the senior as much independence as possible to enhance self-esteem.
- A little planning can go a long way in optimizing comfort, such as keeping the room warm, using comfortable lighting, and maintaining as much privacy as possible.
- Lay clothing out for the older adult in the order that each piece should be put on, gently giving guidance for each step if needed.
At Visiting Angels, we understand the difficulties that can surround personal care tasks, and we’re here to help with trained, experienced caregivers whose ultimate goal is to make sure that each senior feels at ease, safe and respected. Contact us at 408-735-0977 or 510-284-0000 for more tips or to partner with our home care agency in California for trusted senior care services to give both your senior loved one and yourself peace of mind.